Today the ABC ran a piece about Obama and the NSA.
“Given the history of abuse by governments, it’s right to ask questions about surveillance, particularly as technology is reshaping every aspect of our lives,” Mr Obama told reporters at the White House.
Mr Obama said he was unveiling specific steps to improve oversight of surveillance and restore public trust in the government’s programs.
“It’s not enough for me as president to have confidence in these programs. The American people need to have confidence in them, as well,” he said.
That’s a big ask. Not only the rabid US style libertarians are upset over this overstep by government. Many more progressive people are as well, and not only because of the infringements of civil liberties. The US spy agencies are collecting much more than is legal even by the standards of Patriot Act law. And they’re collecting info about citizens in other nations as well.
Obama may well single out Edward Snowden for seeking asylum in Russia, but after the way the US has treated Bradley Manning and the many people still incarcerated in Guantanamo bay, Snowden’s still looking less like a traitor and more like someone who’s justifiably concerned for his safety.
The US, meanwhile, is still the world’s most dangerous rogue state. The bombing of a school in Yemen is yet more evidence of that. All the diversion and dust up about supposed Al Qaeda traffic in recent weeks shouldn’t stop people asking questions about the nature of the surveillance carried out by the US and the representatives that have permitted it to become legal, or turned a blind eye at the illegalities.
After a brief mention of privacy by Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Ludlam, the behaviour of Australia’s erstwhile ally has gone unquestioned during the Federal election campaign. No one wants Nicola Roxon’s data sequestration facility questioned at present. That’s not the only issue here, though. As was pointed out at the time of Snowden’s first announcements, the actual surveillance is only part of the problem.
Last week a story went around, regarding a woman who had six agents from a terrorism task force knock on her door. Initially she thought it was a result of online searching. The story that came out later was much darker.
Turns out though, it was the former employer of Catalano’s husband doing the watching. Following the online uproar, Suffolk County police explained that “detectives received a tip from a Bay Shore-based computer company regarding suspicious computer searches conducted by a recently released employee.” Apparently Catalano’s husband had been searching for the terms “pressure cooker bombs” and “backpacks” in his work computer and his former employers became paranoid they could have a terrorist in their midst.
And that, folks, is the real issue. People are so paranoid because of the constant scaremongering and propaganda used by the government and mainstream media that they can’t tell which way is up. In a scene which does actually echo Nineteen Eighty-Four, the guy was dobbed in by co-workers. At the time Snowden’s leaks were made public someone noticed that sales of that book had risen. Many derided it as being irrelevant. What we see, though, as the story plays out is that it is more relevant than we’d like to think. The flow on chilling effect this has in broader society is dangerous. The fact that it’s being done to prop up government by the corporations, for the corporations makes it outright fascist. At the time Orwell wrote British society was still a social democracy. His identification of the dystopian government as socialist wasn’t a stretch of the imagination in his day.
Fox “news” and other media organs like to fan the flames of a belief in socialism because it suits Rupert Murdoch’s malignant agenda. There are people in the US that actually believe that public health care in a civilised nation must be socialist. The Republican party representatives have made 40 attempts to repeal “Obamacare.”
What all this really amounts to is that the US is lost in the woods, leadership wise, without even a trail of breadcrumbs to follow. Whether Australia will continue to stumble blindly after the States remains to be seen. Given the continuing focus on small numbers of Asylum seekers rather than of the real issues that face Australia in the 21st century, like our continuing dependence on fossil fuels, it looks like Transition Towns and other sustainable living grass roots endeavours will become much, much more important in future.